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Venturi Motors sets sights on electric car production within two years

The Buckeye Bullet attracted Venturi Automobiles to Ohio. But a perfect mix of conditions could keep it here and result in all-electric cars being produced in Columbus in the next two years.

Venturi, a Monaco-based company that builds electric vehicles, announced in January that it was establishing North American headquarters at TechColumbus, located on the Ohio State University campus. Since then, Venturi North America has been working through regulatory requirements for manufacturing cars here while continuing to partner with OSU engineering students and the university's Center for Automotive Research (CAR) on the experimental Buckeye Bullet, which has continually set land speed records (see our story in July 28 issue).

"A few years ago the owner of the company, Gildo Pastor, got involved in the Buckeye Bullet during the hydrogen run when it was using fuel cells," says John Pohill, an industry veteran and CEO of Venturi North America.

Pastor "fell in love with speed and became a donor to CAR and to the university," Pohill explains. "In their attempt for that speed record, they talked about what would be next, and Gildo, being an electric car manufacturer, said maybe we can go to electric, and that's exactly what happened. He became even more involved."

When Pastor decided to establish North American operations, Pohill says, "the perfect spot was Columbus because Ohio State was here, the Buckeye Bullet was here and a great deal of other activities relating to the electric car."

Venturi North America announced at the Detroit Auto Show in January that it would build its America automobile in Ohio. Pohill describes the America as a "buggy style vehicle. It's all electric, it's purpose-built in that it was not a change from another vehicle. The other discussion we had was whether to build it for the masses or to make it what Venturi is known for, which is a high-end performance car. We still haven't come to a final decision on that, but it looks more like it's going to be something that's not exorbitantly expensive, but it also won't be cheap."

Pohill expects to hire several employees in the next month to assist with such things as marketing, engineering, finance and dealer development.

"Eventually I want to hire a younger staff, bring some of the OSU students in, and really create a small car company somewhere from 70 to 100 people," Pohill says.

In the next year, Venturi will complete regulatory work and testing of the America to ready it for production, Pohill predicts. "Within two years we'll launch it and get it out on the highway," he says.

But stay tuned: Pohill says the company plans to unveil a brand new car at the next Detroit Auto Show. And, eventually, there might be an elecric motorcycle in the works.

Source: John Pohill, Ventui North America
Writer: Gene Monteith
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